Blockbuster and the Democratization (or not) of Settop Boxes

Blockbuster today announced that it’ll be launching a new initiative allowing download of movies to a proprietary settop box (similar to Netflix’s Roku). It has been noted that there are getting to be a lot of awfully similar boxes out there trying to claim the living room (Roku, AppleTV, Tivo, and to some extent the game consoles). I don’t believe that Blockbuster’s entry is meaningless, though, as their audience is not that of Apple or Netflix, so, if this can work, it will probably be incremental to that market. An obvious risk is exactly that their audience isn’t that of Apple or Netflix, and may just not willing to lay out the dollars for the device or for broadband. -Blockbuster is building in a lot of free downloads (not “streams” as Techcrunch incorrectly stated) to make the box effectively quite inexpensive, so the former is somewhat minimized. The question is somewhat whether broadband’s installed base has saturated enough that there are a lot of Blockbuster customers out there with broadband to their computers, but no settop boxes (beyond the default cable/satelliteTV), on their television. -And whether Blockbuster can actually move any sort of product at this point. If they manage to sell these in any volume, it probably will indicate that the less affluent user is underserved by existing offerings. The result will be informative for games, as well.

One thought on “Blockbuster and the Democratization (or not) of Settop Boxes

  1. The thing that surprises me though is that Apple seems to be in the best position (again) to win this hands down, and for the exact same reason as every time before this – “not invented (or hosted, or sold) here” syndrome – it looks to me like they’ll lose.

    AppleTV is by far the most attractive of all these boxes that I’ve seen – it’s a cheap-ass Mac Mini ($249) that could play every thing available on the internet right now – if apple would let Adobe (Flash) and Microsoft (Silverlight) in, they could instantly support Hulu, Netflix, etc.

    Would they lose some iTunes store sales? Sure. But they’d sell a ton more units, which would likely translate into more iTunes store sales… and if the AppleTV becomes to the TV set what the iPod became to the pedestrian, then the iPod touch/iPhone (aka the AppleTV remote) becomes that much more embedded in the base.

    But they won’t, so the discussion is moot. If only a set-top box came along that was actually really open.

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